A nearly foolproof recipe to make your own, homemade Italian ciabatta bread in under four hours!
Ciabatta is my favorite Italian bread, but it is not always the easiest and quickest bread to make, even for a seasoned baker.
The dough is rather wet and sticky and can seem impossible to work with when you're new to the process, but that wet stickiness is also vital to the light, bubbly, airy texture of this bread.
This also is a bread that requires some planning ahead because you need to let the starter stand overnight or at least several hours. And planning ahead is not my favorite thing to do.
I was resigned to making ciabatta only when I have the time, which is not often, until I came upon a great technique that cuts down the waiting significantly.
The initial rise time for this ciabatta is under two hours, and the second rise is just about an hour. So in under four hours, including prep and baking time, you are rewarded with a fluffy, crusty, delicious bread that you won't be able to stop dunking in olive oil and popping into your mouth. Imagine that.
I have a busy Sunday, so I can't chat too long. My neighbor Heather and I are trapping some feral cats in our neighborhood and I am transporting them to the spay and neuter clinic this afternoon. But before I say ta-ta, here's the recipe. Enjoy, all!
Make these vegan breads next:
- Sourdough Olive and Sage Loaf
- Sourdough Pretzels
- Vegan Olive Oil Brioche with Aquafaba
- The Best Sourdough Sandwich Bread, Yeast Free
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 ¼ cups warm (not hot) water (you might need more if you are in a dryer area)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar (not usually found in traditional ciabatta, but it really helps speed the rise)
- Mix the sugar, water and yeast in a bowl and set aside for five minutes for the yeast to start working.
- Add the flour and salt and mix in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. You want the mixture to be just slightly thicker than a pancake batter-- it should definitely not pull together into a firm dough.
- Let the mixture stand for about 15 minutes. Then turn on the stand mixer to a medium-high setting. After about six minutes, the dough will start to make a flapping sound and start rising up the sides of the bowl.
- At this point, switch the paddle for the dough hook and knead for another six to seven minutes until the dough starts pulling cleanly off the sides of the bowl. It will be smooth at this stage but still very sticky and loose.
- Grease a bowl and pour the dough into it. Cover with a plastic wrap or kitchen towel and place in a warm spot, like an oven with the pilot light on.
- In about 1 ½ to 2 hours, the dough would have tripled.
- Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper and then dusting the paper liberally with flour.
- Pour the dough out of the bowl and into the center of the cookie sheet. Dust the top with flour.
- Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into two pieces. Using the bench scraper and a wet hand if needed, shape the dough, tucking the irregular pieces underneath, until you have two flat logs. The logs should be about six inches apart. This is a rustic bread, and the wet dough is not going to hold a definite shape, so don't even try for a beautiful, even look. This is known as an Italian slipper bread for a reason. The baked bread will turn out absolutely gorgeous, trust me, with a translucent, lit-from-within look and those gorgeous air holes.
- Dust some more flour over the logs, then cover them with a loose kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for about an hour or until the logs are risen and all puffy-looking.
- About half an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone or baking stone in place. Place an empty pan in the bottom rack while preheating, then add a cup of water to it just before you place the bread in the oven.
- Place the ciabatta loaves directly on the baking stone by sliding the parchment off your cookie sheet. If you are really not sure how to do this, just place the entire baking sheet on top of the baking stone.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the loaves are golden-brown and the bottom sounds hollow then tapped.
- Cool thoroughly on a rack.
Hi! If I make this recipe using fresh yeast instead of active dry yeast, how much should I use? Thanks!
This turned out absolutely perfect. Thank you!
So great to hear, Andrew! Happy you tried it.
Carole from Canada
Just me again with another question. If 2 loaves are approximately 10 " long and should be spaced 6" apart, what size cookie sheet do you use. Is it oversized? I can get the length of roughly 10" no problem but my cookie sheet doesn't allow for 6" apart. They butt up against each other.
Hi Carole, A standard size cookie sheet--about 26 inches by 18 inches, should be fine. If the loaves touch after they rise just pull them apart after baking.
Carole from Canada
Thanks again for your quick response. I did slice them apart.
Tried this for the first time. Didn't have the pizza stone, but otherwise followed the recipe. Turned out great! Looking forward to trying a full ciabatta recipe, but definitely keeping this one... One of the best breads I've made.
So happy to hear, Jeff!
Carole from Canada
I got down to the slapping sound part and all was O.K. but when I switched over to the dough hook, the sticky dough never pulled off the sides of the bowl cleanly. It just stuck like crazy.
Hard to say for sure but you probably need more moisture in the dough.
Carole from Canada
Thank you for all the questions you answer so quickly to help us.
I found out my problems. 1..I didn't use the paddle at a fast enough speed.2..I didn't run the dough hook long enough. 3. My yeast wasn't proofing very fast so got a newer one.
RESULT: It work and was beautiful and light with holes. Made 2 gigantic loaves. I like using the all purpose flour. Bread is not so dense and overly chewy. Love it.
Awesome, so happy you figured it out. 🙂
Carole from Canada
Just wondering how long each loaf would/or should be?
Hi Carole, I'd say you can make them approx 10 inches long, although it doesn't really matter for the final outcome.
Why did my ciabatta come out brown instead of white?
It could have been the flour you used. Or the oven could have been too hot.
What an awesome
recipe! The bread came out phenomenal. This is a keeper-
Thanks for sharing!!
Hi Tony, so happy you loved it.
You can cut this recipe in half no problem if you only want one loaf! This time I added a tsp of vital wheat gluten and subbed some buttermilk in for some of the water! Great! Tastes almost like a sourdough! Also I have a 6 inch round springform pan and decided to do 2nd rise and bake in there! Great! I got a nice tall round loaf for variety! Fyi- This is my most requested bread! Love it
So happy to hear, Melissa. Thanks for sharing your great tips!
LOVE this recipe. How can we substitute your starter for some of the dry yeast?
Hi Liz, I have not used a sourdough starter to make ciabatta, but here are some ideas: use 3/4 cup starter and cut down flour to 3 1/2 cups. Reduce water to 1 3/4ths cup. You can add a teaspoon of yeast if you want to be safe, but I think you can skip it, if you use a recently fed, strong starter. Your first rise would have to be long--overnight or at least 10-12 hours. The second rise would prob need about 2 hours. Hope this helps.
I didn’t have huge holes in the bread like I wanted to. There were holes and it rose, etc, but i want those artisan big holes. Any suggestions?
You may have used too much flour. I've made this no lie prob 1000X ! Its a damned it you do damned if you don't situation. Too much flour = smaller holes but higher loaf! Less flour = bigger holes flat loaf! I adjust the flour for whatever I'm making for! It is a STICKY dough! I grease my hands to work with it
LOVE THIS RECIPE! I've used it for YEARS!! You can play w/the water to flour ratio depending on if you want a firmer bread = more flour or lighter more airy bread = less flour! You can also play w/sugar salt amount depending on taste. First rise I never do more than an hour ( I only use instant yeast)
Its a STICKY dough! Grease hands and a bench scraper is your BFF with this dough! You can cut this into rolls easily w/scraper. Work fast and make often and you will become a pro! Ps Less is more! Dont fondle it too much after 1st rise!! Dump..flip, flip is good! If you play with it too much you could get flat bread...really flat!
Love those tips, Melissa, thanks for sharing!
Any tips for making this when i dont have a stand mixer/ is it possible?
Hi Lexi, you can mix the dough by hand but it will need a good amount of kneading. Just knead by hand until you have a smooth but loose and sticky dough (step 4).
Hi, please can you clarify the measurements? When using the metric measurements it shows 480g flour to over 500ml water which can't be correct as that's over 100% hydration. Thanks!
I upped the flour to 530g and kept the water to 500ml. I thought the %hydration level was really high, but once you go through the paddle beating and dough hook session the dough completely changes. I make a lot of pizza dough and never go beyond 65% hydration but this is next level stuff. Use plenty of flour when shaping and leaving to prove else it'll stick. They look flat when they go into the oven but puff up beautifully.
What mixing speed should the bread hook be on?
Medium--around four would be fine.
What do should you do if you do not have a baking stone?
Just use a baking sheet.
Incredible recipe with fantastic results. I've made this twice this week. We are so impressed with it that I'm dumping my previous artisan recipe which was decent but not as delicious and airy as this. Thank you for providing such a simple recipe that is ready to bake the same day.
Hi Jennifer, so happy to hear.
Can you post weight measurements. Or ratio.
Ive started making it but realise the high temperature needed to cook…. It says 500 degrees but my oven only goes as high at 220 degrees- what should I do??
Hi Marion, your temps are prob marked in celsius-- mine are in Fahrenheit. 220 degrees C is about 425 Fahrenheit. That could still be a bit low for the ciabatta because it needs a strong burst of heat, but you could try setting your oven to the highest point and see if it works.
The Unruly Gardener
This was my third try at a ciabatta recipe, and THIS IS THE RECIPE! Stickiest dough I have ever seen; just slid it onto the baking steel parchment and all. Definitely used the steam. Just ate two slices for my dinner, with an amazing Tuscan olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and a dry white. I thought I was in my favorite Italian restaurant!
🙂 So happy to hear!
HOLY CRAP MY BREAD TURNED OUT AMAZING. Airy, chewy inside, crispy perfect outside. Thanks for this recipe. You have changed my bread life.
Exactly by the book. I left my dough overnight in cool place. Trippled by morning , produced two loaves weighing 425g each. On parchment and in oven now. I'm thrilled with the ease of the recipe!
So happy to hear, Val!
At what stage can the dough be frozen?
After the first rise, usually, for any bread dough.
Came out gorgeous -- so moist and tender and airy inside with that perfectly crisp crust. I don't have a stand mixer, and I managed to do it with a Danish dough whisk -- it was a bit of a workout, but SO worth it.
I bake a lot of bread and this is one of my favorites. Thank for this recipe, it surely saved me some time.
I don’t have a pizza stone. Can I bake it while still on the cookie sheet?
Absolutely.and leave it on parchment paper
How do you store this bread?
I can only find instant yeast. Can that be used the same way instead of the active dry yeast? Thank you.
I only buy/use instant yeast! First rise 30 minutes 2nd rise 45 minutes is perfect for this bread! Always double check bread recipes if they use regular yeast and you have instant you must cut the rise time they give in half! If you do the longer rises using "instant yeast" you could blow the yeast out and have flat bread! I only use instant bc I don't have the patience for hours and hours of rising lol